Palace tells 27 allies to face probe on NABCOR funds

by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 17 2014 06:56 PM | Updated as of Mar 18 2014 02:56 AM

MANILA - At least 27 allies of President Benigno Aquino are implicated in the pork barrel scam allegedly carried out through the National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR).

NABCOR was recently ordered abolished by the Office of the President.

Malacanang assured the public it will stay out of the investigation.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda on Monday said they will leave the matter to Department of Justice (DOJ) and will be guided by the evidence.

“I think that’s a situation regardless of whether you are close or not. The President maintains the same principle that where the evidence leads, the DOJ will prosecute, they will investigate," he said.

"What we have always maintained is that where the evidence leads, the DOJ will investigate. So we will leave it with the DOJ to assess and evaluate the—those cases that you referred to. And also the fact that we already have an ally who was already—who have cases that [have] been filed against him, so that should douse any suspicion or fear that this government is set to protect its allies."

Malacanang told its allies to answer allegations.

“I think, when the DOJ asked for their comments, it behooves them to respond to those requests whether it’s in the form of… well, it’s an investigation, let’s see. But I’m sure that the respondents, or rather the congressmen, would be willing to shed light on those audit reports,” Lacierda said.

He said that an Aquino ally, former congressman and now Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Director General Joel Villanueva has been investigated should belie claims of a whitewash.

Lacierda also maintained that Villanueva is willing to be investigated over events that happened under the previous administration.

“Secretary Joel Villanueva has submitted his signatures to the Questioned Documents section of the NBI. He particularly stated that he has no… He is willing to be investigated, and we certainly welcome the statement of Secretary Joel Villanueva," he said.

"You must also remember that this was a time where the LP [Liberal Party] was not in power and a number of these people during the time belong to different parties," he added. "It is not the affiliation of the present time, but rather during the time when this was—this audit was conducted, and this is precisely the audit of 2007 to 2009. So, again, these are events that happened prior to the administration, and so we certainly still maintain the belief that where the evidence leads us, then let’s go there. But in the case of Joel Villanueva, he has already stated as much that he is willing to be investigated.”

Of the 27 Palace allies, 18 are incumbent congressmen:

1. Aggabao, Giorgidi B. - Isabela, 4th District (deputy speaker)
2. Agyao, Manuel - Kalinga, Lone District
3. Bagatsing, Amado - Manila (chairman, committee on ecology)
4. Bautista, Franklin - Davao Del Sur, 2nd District (head, HRET delegation)
5. Belmonte, Vicente Jr. - Iligan City, Lone District (chairman, committee on dangerous drugs, Liberal Party, distant cousin of Speaker Sonny Belmonte)

6. Bichara, Al Francis - Albay, 2nd District (chairman, committee on foreign affairs)
7.Cabilao, Belma - Zamboanga Sibugay, 1st District
8. Estrella, Conrado III M - Party List, ABONO
9. Ledesma, Julio IV - Negros Occidental, 1st District
10. Mendoza, Mark Llandro - Batangas, 4th District (chairman, committee on agriculture, Nationalist People's Coalition)

11. Ong, Emil - Northern Samar, 2nd District
12. Ortega, Victor - La Union, 1st District
13. Piamonte, Mariano Jr. - Party List, A TEACHER
14. Robes, Arturo - San Jose Del Monte City, Lone District (chairman, committee on social services)
15. Sy-Alvarado, Ma. Victoria - Bulacan, 1st District

16. Tupas, Niel Jr. - Iloilo, 5th District (chairman, committee on justice, Liberal Party)
17. Ungab, Isidro - Davao City, 3rd District (chairman, committee on appropriations, Liberal Party)
18. Uy, Rolando "Klarex" - Cagayan De Oro City, 1st District

Other Aquino allies are no longer in Congress:

1. Former Speaker Prospero Nograles - son is an administration ally, incumbent Rep. Karlo Nograles

2. Alfonso Umali - now Mindoro Oriental governor, Liberal Party, brother of Liberal Party congressman Rey Umali

3. Joel Villanueva - now TESDA chair, member of the Aquino cabinet

4. Rachel Arenas - daughter of incumbent Pangasinan Rep. Baby Arenas, a member of the House majority and thus an ally of President Aquino

5. Maria Isabella Climaco - now mayor of zamboanga

6. Edgardo Gullas

7. Rene Velarde

8. Rodolfo Antonino

9. Pedro Pancho

A 19th incumbent congressman listed among those who allegedly benefitted from NABCOR is Yacap party-list Rep. Carol Jayne Lopez. She is, however, a member of the minority in the 16th Congress.

Another prominent former congressman in the list of those tagged is Ignacio Arroyo, who has died.

Many of the congressmen tagged are from the 14th Congress.